What happens when a group of privacy advocates descends on an Ed-Tech conference???


Last week I attended SXSWedu and it was very interesting. I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in a panel to discuss the challenges in student data privacy and defining data ownership. And as excited as I was to be able to participate, I looked forward to the other sessions at SXSWedu. This year there were many panels discussing student privacy (about 10), more than any other year. And that is telling, because it means that the conversation around student data privacy is becoming entrenched in the educational landscape.

So what happens when a group of privacy advocates descends on SXSWedu? The conversation changes. The conference showcased how the use of data and technology in education has the power to ensure that every student has the opportunity to maximize their education. But with the increased use of technology in the classroom comes the increased amount of student data available. And that is where the privacy conversations came in. How can we meet the unique needs of every student while ensuring that their data is being used ethically, effectively and safely, but without stifling innovation? I spoke to many different groups of people while I was there and the main concern from tech companies was – how do we get it right so that we can give parents the comfort that we are safeguarding their children’s data while simultaneously improving and enhancing our products to deliver better learning experiences? And it shouldn’t be that hard. Because when you have privacy advocates and Ed-tech companies working together you can make substantial and effective changes as Clever did in updating their privacy policy. I would like to see companies have their privacy policies right from the beginning. Make it part of their culture. When we discussed data ownership in my panel I stressed the importance of recognizing student input and creating their brand image and privacy “philosophy” with students at the center of their decision making process. Because only by recognizing students as active participants in their education will we move the conversation from one of concern about student privacy to one of collaboration.

The commitment I saw this past week does not begin and end at SXSWedu. Everyone with a stake in education has a responsibility to do more. There is an incredible opportunity at hand and it starts with our commitment to safeguard student data.